By Alan M. Guanella
How many Saint Mary’s students, if asked, would know where the image of Our Lady of the Blue Nile is located on campus? It is an image that we may walk by every day and yet not take notice of it, or perhaps we have seen it so often that it has become too common for us to take notice of this image.
The image of Our Lady of the Blue Nile is a painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary that was painted, according to the informational placard next to it, around the year 1500 by an itinerant monk. It was found during excavations in Ethiopia around 1934 and, after the image passed ownership a few times, it was given to a Mrs. Roberts in 1954 who gave the image to Msgr. Julius Haun who, in turn, donated the image to Saint Mary’s in 1955. It was then placed in its current location and has not been moved in 53 years, according to the placard, although the library was not built until 1961.
The current location of the image is on the main floor of the Fitzgerald Library, above the printer by the library catalog computers. The question that I pose is this: Is this really the best place to display such a priceless piece of artwork and beautiful devotional image? With the patroness of Saint Mary’s being the Blessed Virgin Mary herself, why do we keep a 508-year old original painting of her and her Son above a printer? Perhaps it’s time to look for a much more suitable place for this image: a place in which Mary can be honored as both the Mother of God and the patroness of this university. Would not the chapel be a better place than above a printer? Would not a new display case and new placard be fitting for this historic piece of religious artwork that we have on campus? I believe it is time that we move this image to a more proper place.